In Our Stars?

By |2019-05-03T05:37:13-05:00May 3rd, 2019|Global Market Update|

“The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Photo: NASA. Source: Flikr. That’s a line from one of Shakespeare’s plays, when a character tells another that it’s their own responsibility for what’s happening in the world. That’s not a bad perspective to have. It’s easy to blame others. Some say the world economy is unbalanced because China exports too much. But China exports so much because we in the US buy their stuff. And we need the Chinese to finance our deficit [...]

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The Dangers of Competence

By |2019-02-12T17:06:36-05:00February 12th, 2019|Global Market Update|

Have we had enough of experts? Photo: Graham Lavender. Source: Flikr. CC-BY-2.0 That’s the cry of populists everywhere. Fed up with self-satisfied elites who manage to feather their own nests even as they run their organizations or countries or businesses into nowhere, the average person decides, “No more.” No more consulting contracts that only tell us more study – with more fees – are needed. No more privatized gains and socialized losses, where taxpayers pick up the tab when pet projects don’t work out. [...]

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The Madness of Mobs

By |2018-07-18T06:10:36-05:00July 18th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Be careful around crowds. Stadium Crowd. Photo: Abdul Rahman. Source: FlikrCC-BY-2.0 Especially if you want better investment returns. There are times when investment manias sweep through the markets, lifting anything in a particular niche or with a particular name. The internet boom of the late ‘90s, the biotech boom of the late ‘80s, the oil boom of the ‘70s, and recent crypto-craze, where anything related to block-chain cryptography was granted almost instant unicorn status. These levels rarely last. Conversely the mob can turn on [...]

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Shakespeare and Tax Reform

By |2018-01-19T07:02:04-05:00January 19th, 2018|Global Market Update|

What we call things is important. Photo: Victor Hanacek. Source: Picjumbo How items are defined can have real-world implications on how they’re treated. Consider the latest changes in the tax code. Individuals can now only deduct up to $10,000 of the State and local taxes they pay. So high-income people in high-tax states like New York, California, and Vermont could end up paying more on their Federal income taxes than they would if they lived in a low-tax state like Florida or Texas. Naturally, [...]

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The Fickle Finger of Fraud

By |2017-07-17T12:21:27-05:00March 28th, 2017|Global Market Update|

How do you smell a rat? Charles Ponzi, author of the first Ponzi scheme. Source: Boston Public Library Detecting financial fraud can be challenging. We know there are lots of people who want our money. It takes decades, sometimes a lifetime, to build a nest egg. It’s important to safeguard it. But in the real world people lie, cheat, and steal. Financial products are especially prone to distortion and deception, with complex legal provisions and mind-bending mathematical formulas. How can we protect ourselves? First, [...]

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Truth-Telling and Fools

By |2017-07-17T12:21:42-05:00September 29th, 2016|Global Market Update|

Who tells you the truth? King Lear and his Fool. Artist: Ary Scheffer. Source: Folger Library No one wants to hear bad news. That’s why accountants and finance professionals are often so unpopular. A leader may have grand visions for the future filled with growth and opportunity—but his finance people tell him he doesn’t have the money to pay for it. Good leaders listen to counsel; bad leaders shoot the messenger, surrounding themselves with toadies and sycophants. Eventually, these leaders overreach. They try to [...]

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The Tyranny of Norms

By |2017-07-17T12:21:46-05:00August 24th, 2016|Global Market Update|

Will the economy ever get back to normal? Source: New York Fed Fed officials keep telling us what they want. But that’s not their job. The Fed was established to support the banking system—to serve as bankers to the bankers. Part of that job involves managing bank reserves, the money supply, and short-term interest rates. The 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins legislation specifically instructed the Fed to pursue two goals: full employment and price stability. This is sometimes called the Fed’s “dual mandate.” So it is understandable [...]

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The Biased Investor (Part 5)

By |2017-07-17T12:21:56-05:00June 7th, 2016|Global Market Update|

What does it mean to be rational? Illustration: Friedrich Blitz. Source: Wikipedia We need to make decisions every day about all kinds of things: what to eat, what to wear, how to answer the latest question from family members or co-workers or clients. Sometimes, we have time to think things through. Often, however, we don’t have that luxury—so we develop shortcuts, rules-of-thumb, that help us decide what to do pretty quickly. For example, the weather is pretty stable. If slacks and a long-sleeve shirt [...]

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The Wisdom of Fools

By |2017-07-17T12:21:59-05:00May 2nd, 2016|Global Market Update|

Who tells you the truth? Stanczyk by Jan Matejko. Source: Warsaw National Art Museum There’s a tragic cycle in human affairs. A leader solves a problem and is celebrated for their wisdom or decisiveness or practical understanding. They’re given more and more authority. Eventually, all the adulation goes to their head. They don’t want to hear bad news—who does?—and acquire toadies and sycophants who only tell them what they want to hear. Eventually, the leader overreaches—they try to accomplish things beyond their abilities and [...]

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By Any Other Name …

By |2017-07-17T12:22:05-05:00April 11th, 2016|Global Market Update|

Do names matter? Photo: Laitche. Source: Wikimedia In Romeo and Juliet,Juliet famously questions if a rose would smell just as sweet if we called it something else. And the answer to that is, both yes and no. The fragrance would be the same, of course. But the “sweetness”? That’s purely subjective. It’s based on our experience and expectations, as well as what we might compare it to. In “The Hunger Games” the villain -- President Snow -- always wears a rose, and he uses [...]

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